Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. Good J.R. Bad J.R. Earl Joseph Smith III. Whatever you choose to call J.R. Smith, you have to call the groove he is in right now incredible. During the 11-game winning streak the Knicks are currently on, Smith is averaging 23.9 points. Last week, he was named the NBA Player of the Week for the East. He started the season off hot, and while he may have cooled off a little towards the middle, he seems committed to playing excellent basketball to close out the season.
Smith has established himself as a favorite for the Sixth Man Of The Year Award. The other big name candidate is Jamal Crawford, who won the award in 2010. Smith is out-scoring, out-assisting, and out-rebounding Crawford. However, his shooting numbers are slightly lower than Crawford’s. Other candidates include Jarret Jack and Ryan Anderson, but their teams are not doing as well as the Knicks or Clippers.
Needless to say, J.R. Smith’s career year, the Knicks success, and the potential SMOY Award will make him very appealing to other teams if he opts out of his contract, as he is expected to do. The next year of his contract pays him 2.5 million dollars, but the Knicks now have his Early Bird Rights, which allows them to give him a larger and longer contract if he opts out. It’s likely that multiple teams will come calling for Smith, and that they will be able to offer contracts much more lucrative than the Knicks can.
The question that basketball minds and fans alike are starting to ask if what will Smith decide to do?
He has plenty of reasons to stay in New York. He is from New Jersey, and has built a new home near his mother. He has an excellent relationship with Carmelo Anthony, who played with him in Denver. But most of all, he has found a coach in Mike Woodson who believes in him and roots for him. Smith has struggled with being coached in his career, but the father-son relationship between Woodson and Smith has had proven results in his game.
The Knicks can only offer him 5 million dollars a year, for up to four-years with steady increases. Smith may be able to score a bigger deal if he skipped town, and leaving the Knicks may offer him another bonus. Smith has stated multiple times he believes he is a starting shooting guard. Mike Woodson has stated multiple times he will not start Smith, and while Smith has accepted his role this season, he may be convinced to go elsewhere if he can be guaranteed the starting job.
Under Woodson, Smith has shown growth on and off the court, but his prior mistakes and reputation as an immature bad boy may stop the less desperate teams from going after him that hard. Smith’s reputation may scare some teams away, and that’s good news for the Knicks. His scoring, athleticism, and defense have helped the Knicks, and with their extremely limited cap room, Smith is a player they cannot afford to lose.
J.R. Smith has been one of the biggest highlights for the Knicks this season. He’s had two game winning buzzer beaters, as well as helped guide the team through injuries to most of their other key players at some point or another during the season. Smith earned the maximum offer the Knicks can give him, but will that be enough for him to stay? Only time will tell, but first he has to wait and see just how far this group of Knicks can go.